The Olivet Discourse: An Apocalyptic Timetable -- By: George C. Fuller

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 28:2 (May 1966)
Article: The Olivet Discourse: An Apocalyptic Timetable
Author: George C. Fuller

The Olivet Discourse: An Apocalyptic Timetable

George C. Fuller

There are facets of Jesus’ sermon from the Mount of Olives that speak with clarity to the heart of every Christian. One of them is that no one knows the time of the Messiah’s coming. The second is that the Christian therefore ought to be ready at all times. The words in the Olivet Discourse which relate most directly to the Christian’s life are these: “take heed”, “watch”, “be ready”. On these issues all Christians can find a meeting ground, as they proclaim together the significance of Jesus’ parousia.

There are other subjects in the Olivet Discourse about which Christians disagree, sometimes sharply. Primarily these are to be found in the time-structure of the Discourse. Long hours have been devoted to the search for answers to such questions as: How did Jesus view the future and what is the relation between the fall of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah? It is to questions such as these that our attention is to be turned in this study.

It might be well at the outset to note several “ground rules” for such an inquiry. One is that, although these parts of the Olivet Discourse may be of greater interest, the heart of its message is to be found in its imperatives. The consideration of the Discourse’s time-structure demands less from us with reference to our living; the imperatives demand everything. A second matter worthy of note is that sincere Christians differ widely in their interpretation of this passage. We ought therefore to be generous with regard to the opinions of others. Perhaps not until the day that God chooses to reveal more of his truth to our finite minds will the interpretation of any of us be confirmed as correct, possibly not even then.

That view of the Olivet Discourse which appears as most simple and accurate to many Christians holds that Matthew 24:29 (Mark 13:24, Luke 21:25) marks a point of division between Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:4–28) and his prophecy with regard to his coming (Matt. 24:29–31). In the following paragraph he relates these two events to each other (Matt. 24:32–36), and then gives

directions concerning the proper Christian attitude and posture in the light of the absolute certainty of his coming (Matt. 24:37–25:46). This is not a new view of the Olivet Discourse;...

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